The History of the Future

June 18, 2016:

Nathaniel manages to get Rachel out of the basement to talk about changing the future, and brings in Roy Harper to talk about her status with the law.

University of Metropolis

With the founding of the University of Metropolis in 1817, innovative
learning to aid to Metropolis' budding science and technology advancements
arrived.

Located just south of Centennial Park the division of the two starts to
bleed from naturistic back into paved walkways that divide off squared
lanscaping and fountains, checkerboarding the large pathway to the front
doors with trees and shrubbery to not utterly lose the serenity even the
students enjoy between classes.

Several stairs lead upward towards the row of glass doors, a polished gleam
still there amongst the old brick of the build that has withstood the ageing
of time and the mass amout of use. The doors are constantly opening and
closing with the ebb and flow of the student body, but stepping through the
openness is vast, the ceilings high and bolstering the lining of up to date
lighting and technology rimming along the old art deco architecture. Halls
wind all around, breaking from the foyer, numbers and arrows pointing from
signs to direct students toward the correct rooms for their classes, the
main floor the one for the starting classes, and just as you work your way
towards a major or degree, you work your way up those levels via elevator
systems - the top floor harboring the science and technology division.

Behind this arch-roofed building of seven stories there is a high rise
tower for living, mainly housing the student body, the college also has a
floating aquarium anchored just offshore called the "Ark."

This is where the youth of today learn to provide for the City of Tomorrow.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The starship Starfire hovers invisible over Metropolis, which means Nathaniel Richard pretty much lives in the city. Which is fine for him, since it is the most modern city in the world and the future capital of the United Earth. A city with a glorious history… future history. Possible future history. Whatever.

Metropolis University is a favorite hangout, since he can meet, chat and debate with people of his age. And some of the smartest of this generation. In fact, he had never seen so many people of his age. His entire generation on Earth in his timeline could fit one of the University classrooms.

Unfortunately, he has yet to find anyone that is his peer, so the novelty is fading, and he has in his mind he should start working on saving the Earth from the incoming Dark Age. Which… he probably can’t do alone. He has failed to contact again with the Spiderman from 2099, but fortunately he can send a message to Rachel using a simple telepathic plug. It has taken more than a message to get her to agree to meet with him, but he is persistent. And now he is waiting for the redhead in the library’s cafe.


It's true. Rachel had tried demurring, dodging, and flat out ignoring Nathaniel's messages. Not because she wants to avoid him, and not even because she particularly wants to stay hidden in the X-Men's basement - if she doesn't get some sun soon she's going to be so pale she'll turn translucent - but the siege mentality she's adopted has become a bad habit that it's proving harder to break the longer it goes on.

Still. Nathaniel IS persistent, and in the end Rachel's left with two choices: Either go out and meet him, or ask for help blocking him out. And she doesn't want to have that conversation with the X-Men - or, if she's honest, cut her ties to Nathaniel, either. He's one of the very few people she knows on the outside who apparently doesn't have it in for her.

As a result, the redhead appears at the appointed time in the library's cafe. Only she's not a redhead, at least to anyone who's vulnerable to her telepathic manipulations. The young woman who sits down across from Nathaniel has black hair and doesn't look much like Rachel, at least on the surface. "Hi." She says, without preamble. "Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. I had a lot…" She winces. "OK, that'd be a lie. I had absolutely nothing going on and just wanted to avoid getting shot at. Again."


Nathaniel does indeed see a brunette Rachel, until his armor detects both her presence and the telepathic interference and he activates a psi-shield. He stands up to invite the mutant girl to sit in front of him, “well… I am glad you are here. Hello!” He sits down again, “I was about to give up, I was feeling like a stalker.” He considers, “hopefully you won’t get shot here. But who is aiming for you? Other time travelers?”


Rachel slouches down in her chair, as if she's trying to appear shorter than she really is. Or maybe she's just more comfortable that way. "I'm glad you didn't." She says, and finds that she's not just being polite, she actually means it. She still doesn't straighten up in her chair though. "Yeah, here's hoping…" She says with a wry twist of her lips, unable to quite resist a quick glance around the cafe. Even though her telepathy should cue her towards any threats, she's still edgy. "What?" She says, twisting back around, only half hearing his question. "No." She shakes her head, but seems to find some humour in the situation, however dark that might be. "Have I got that to look forward to?" She asks, only half-joking, before she becomes serious again. "No." She repeats. "Definitely people from this time period. Turns out it's not just the good guys who don't like the stuff the old me got up to." Rachel sighs, looking at the tabletop in front of her, then rallies. "Doesn't matter, anyway. It's my problem. What can I do for you, Nathaniel?"


“There have been… raids, a couple attacks against time travelers from time travelers,” mentions Nathaniel cautiously. “But not recently, it might be it was some vendetta against a specific target. Nevermind.” He sighs. “We talked about the near future last time I saw you, remember? We both wanted to prevent the end of the Heroic Age, the Sentinel Uprising and what comes after. I have done some research I want to show you the psychohistorical metacalculations. The likely scenarios, and see which fits better your timeline.”


Rachel doesn't look particularly reassured when she's told 'nevermind'. In fact she looks slightly edgier than she did before. "Wait, what sort of raids…?" She starts to ask, beginning to lean forward, but lets herself slump back when Nathaniel changes the subject. There's a rebellious flicker in her eyes, which is at least an improvement on apathy. If Nathaniel didn't have a juicier morsel to offer, she might have kept badgering him. "Yes." She says quietly. "We do." Stirring herself, she finally shifts her body back up in her chair so she's sitting properly and leans forward, resting her arms on the table. There's a spark of interest in her eyes now. "Do it. Maybe I can be useful for once."


“Of course,” agrees Nathaniel, standing up. “Lets grab an unhealthy and addictive carbonated drink or two and go to one of the study rooms. I want to show you the data and the historical files. The files are suspect since this is not actually my exact timeline, but the trends are relevant because social situation is almost identical.” He did a reservation for a room in the second floor, with the help of a little hacking.


Rachel's chair scrapes back across the floor as she joins Nathaniel and rises to her full height. It's a small thing, but she's not slouching round-shouldered any more. The prospect of actually doing something has sparked some genuine interest in her and, for the moment at least, maybe she won't be such a depressed - and probably depressing - companion. "So it's a study date, not a lunch date?" She asks with a faintly teasing half smile, falling in beside Nathaniel. She's vaguely aware that she shouldn't be making jokes when they're discussing the end of the world, and at least tries to get back on track. "I'll do what I can. I was a kid when all this happened." She shrugs. "I'm probably better with consequences than causes." She warns, as she loads up on drinks.


“I was going to invite you for lunch later,” admit Nathaniel with a faint grin. “But business before pleasure. Is that what they say this right now?” He heads for the staircase, “to be honest I am not sure how much of what you would remember will match the theoretical models I have developed. The real influence of social and political groups in current events seems to be almost entirely missing from the newsfeeds I can access. History and sociology apply only to past events?” He shakes his head. “Nevertheless… well, the Sentinel uprising must feel very important for you. But the mutant genocide was just a small part of the fall into the Dark Age.”
The room is fairly small, with a table and half a dozen chairs. Nathaniel steps forward and leaves a small device in the middle of the table. His right hand is covered in metal. An holographic display pixelates over the table. Charts in an alien language. They shimmer and shift to English and Arabic numbers.


"Don't expect me to say no." Rachel replies quickly, in case Nathaniel's offer is time-limited. "The food where I'm staying is a hell of a lot better than what I was used to, but I could use a bit of variety." A shadow passes over her face as she says that, dimming the light in her eyes. "Yeah, I guess." She says, more quietly, feeling suddenly guilty for voicing even a faint complaint about how well she's being taken care of by the X-Men. It feels disloyal, particularly since they've provided her with the longest uninterrupted supply of proper meals that she's had since she was fourteen. Telepathic disguises notwithstanding, she probably looks healthier than she did when Nathaniel first ran across her, her face no longer quite so gaunt.

Rachel tunes back in to what Nathaniel's saying, but most of it goes over her head. "Why do I suddenly feel like I didn't do the required reading?" She asks, although the teasing look on her face vanishes when he takes the long view of what, to her, is still recent history. "Important. Yeah. You could say that." Rachel's quiet until they reach the room that Nathaniel's chosen, and after closing the door she lingers close to it while he sets up whatever it is that he's setting up. She watches the holographic display as it changes, then looks over at him questioningly. "Do you want me to make sure no one wonders what we're doing in here?"


Nathaniel hrms, looking at the redhead studiously, “required reading… right. I will try to keep it simple, although as a telepath you could… no, nevermind. Don’t worry about witnesses; no one can hear what we are saying outside the room. And I am waiting for a friend, he should join us after our talk.”

He gestures to the holographic display, which is becoming a soundless succession of images taken from TV news channels. “What I did was an analysis of events, political opinions and social trends. The goal was to predict the events in the next twenty years, as I did not really know the underlying reasons for the disasters. But I think I know now. Bear with me this kind of study sometimes fails due to the actions of extraordinary and unpredictable individuals, which right now Earth has in great numbers. On the other hand I am counting on it so we can steer away from the most likely future.”


"I could…?" Rachel echoes his question, a look of unfeigned curiosity on her face, wondering if he'd just thought better of letting her inside his head. She wouldn't be surprised, he strikes her as someone who likes knowing others' secrets while keeping his own secrets close. Not, as she has to keep reminding herself, that she really has any secrets left. Leaving her post at the door, Rachel walks across to the table. "Anyone I know?" She asks, resting a hand on the back of a chair while she studies the hologram at close range, then pulls it out and sits down, her eyes straying back to the shifting images as Nathaniel lets her in on what this is all about. Rachel looks about ready to jump in with what (comparatively little!) she knows about what went wrong back 'home', but subsides when he offers a sliver of hope. "If you think it can be done, I'm listening."


“It can be done, the only problem is how,” the holographic display stops in a news report about the Hydra activities two years ago. “This,” Nathaniel moves closer to the table. “Powerful supra-national organizations without any real government control was a phenomenon that actually began in the Twenty Century. But has become widespread only with the maturing of the electronic age. These organizations are now commonplace.” The Hydra holo vanishes, and it is replaced by the logos of a number of the main multi-national corporations. Stark, Lexcorp, Cyberdata, Fukigawa, and many more. “I did not put Hydra first for nothing. Ultimately the goal of these supra-national organizations is to tear down the status quo and replace it with one more to their liking. Like most society groups, they automatically struggle to impose the political structure that will allow them to prosper. And I can demonstrate mathematically that the best environment for them involves far weaker nation-states and the elimination of the protectors of the current democratic status quo. This means no super-heroes.”


Rachel snorts quietly to herself, but it's not like she has any bright ideas regarding the 'how' either. She can't even straighten her own life out, steering the planet away from catastrophe sounds like a BIT of a tall order. If she wasn't quite so stubborn… but she is, so when the display stops its seemingly random changing and fixes on a single news report, Rachel leans forward in her chair, folding her arms on the tabletop, and skim reads the report while Nathaniel speaks.
One thing is immediately clear. She really HASN'T done the required reading.

As the report vanishes, Rachel's eyes flicker across the corporate logos that replace it. Most of them she recognises, but again, corporate manipulation of society is a bit outside her recent experience. She fleetingly wonders if Nathaniel is just wasting his time with her, but then he comes to something she can understand. Rachel exhales and sits back in her chair, extending her arms to brace her hands against the table. "That makes a depressing amount of sense." She's still looking at the holo. "Superheroes can stand up when others can't, and they can't be stamped back down as easily." Rachel's eyes move to Nathaniel. "But how are they going to do it? There are so many more, here, than I remember from… back there. It's not just mutants, it's gods, aliens… you name it." Rachel crosses her arms tightly, as if to contain herself. "Back there… from what I remember, what I was told… it was just too easy. Kill a Senator, blame mutants, and before anyone knew what was happening, camps, death squads… Sentinels." By the end, her voice is totally flat, and after a few seconds' silence she has to rouse herself from her memories. "That wouldn't work here. If it happens here, when it happens here… just killing off mutants won't be enough. What do they do about everyone else?"


“Oh, that is simple. Technology that can destroy alpha class mutants can also destroy virtually any other super-being,” explains Nathaniel. “Therefore by demonizing mutants makes perfect sense. Weapons will be developed to deal with the likes of Magneto, and then they can also be used against Iron Man, Wonder Woman or even Black Adam. The very governments that are to be weakened or destroyed will pay for the technology. In twenty years the mega-corporations will dominate the political landscape. Democracy will vanish for nearly a century.”


"It can't be that easy." Rachel says, stubbornly. Unable to sit still any longer, she springs up from her chair and begins pacing the limits of the small room while she struggles to convey what she means. "Demonise mutants, fine. Everyone hates us already. It's why it was so damn easy to round us up back… back home. No-one cares when the army flattened a SCHOOL, because it was a school for MUTANTS." The flash of anger is clear in her voice. Spinning around, she halts herself by grabbing hold of the back of another chair, her knuckles whitening as her fingers dig in. "But people still loved their heroes. Until the Sentinels wiped them out, too. But by then it was too late for your mega-corporations. Sentinels aren't interested in profits. Just death." Rachel locks angry eyes with Nathaniel, then squeezes them shut and takes a breath. "Sorry." She says, her eyes still closed. "I'm not helping much." She opens her eyes and rakes a hand back through her hair. "This isn't a history lesson, for me. I don't have your…" She waves her other hand, searching for a word. "…distance. Perspective. Whatever."


“And yet the Sentinel rule was just a few years,” notes Nathaniel, calmly. “With the nation-states devastated the corporations will control all the media, and all the technology. Robots, contrarily to most humans, can be easily programmed, and I suspect that is how they will get rid of them once they have served their purpose.” He pauses, looking at Rachel despair. “I am sorry. Remember this is not the actions of a few bad apples. This is the society trend. The corporations are led by human beings, but the social structure pushes the most ruthless and merciless ones to the top. Super-villains, if you will, will be in control.”


Rachel throws up her hands in frustration, as much because of Nathaniel's damnable composure as at what he's telling her. Her temper doesn't boil over again, at least not yet. She's keeping it on some kind of leash for the moment. "So what you're telling me, is everything we fought against, it never mattered whether we won or lost? That people are going to destroy themselves whatever we do?" Rachel looks at the holo accusingly, mostly to keep from turning that expression on Nathaniel. "What's the answer? From what you're saying, even if we could bring down your super villains, people will just push someone equally as bad to the top of the heap."


“This is the diagnosis, and you can’t argue with the equations anymore you can argue against the gravity,” replies Nathaniel coolly. “Alter the result of the equations involves altering the initial parameters. But bringing down a corporation or two because it is breaking the laws or directed by murderers is not enough. And unfortunately that would be all the established super-hero groups would do, because lawmaking is the job of politicians, not heroes. Altering the base parameters involves changing the rules of society or taking over the main players directly.”


"I can argue with anything." Rachel mutters mutinously. She would very much like to argue with the diagnosis, the equations, with Nathaniel himself, and she's just about stubborn enough to do it. But where would it get her, exactly? So she keeps her teeth clenched shut while he talks about initial parameters, the rules of society, and… oh. So THAT's where he's going with this. The clarity cuts through the helpless anger she feels at being confronted with another situation that she can't change, and she starts to think again. "I get it. No offence, but you don't strike me as the change society type, Nathaniel. You want to control who ends up on top, don't you?"


That statement makes Nathaniel blink confused. “What? No…” he blurts out. Is that what he has hinted? That is quite bad. It is Kang-thinking in his mind. “There are a… number of possibilities. Supra-national but lawful organizations like the UN or SHIELD can be supported and reinforced. New technologies that make impossible the corporation goals could be introduced. Perhaps even forcing a foreign intervention at a scale would be unable to compensate, such as pushing the human race into the galactic society. A… take over, covert or open, could lead to an ever worse future.”


Rachel's brows rise a bit in surprise, as Nathaniel actually seems wrong-footed for once. Maybe she's wrong, maybe she jumped to the wrong conclusion. But then again… she can't read his mind. And he might be a must better actor than she surmises. Her eyes narrow fractionally, but then she just shrugs in answer to his denial. "OK."

As he lists his alternatives, Rachel makes the effort to keep quiet, but a couple of times she catches herself giving small shakes of her head. "Nathaniel…" She begins, but then hesitates, and offers a small smile. "I'm glad you're not thinking of leading a coup, OK?" She just wanted to say that. In case she really was wrong. "But some of what you're talking about… Look, I still don't really understand everything the other 'me' did, all right? But I know she tried to get help from foreign governments, and I've read the word 'treason' next to pictures of my face often enough to know she didn't make anything better."


Nathaniel shakes his head distractedly. “Er… Rachel Grey, you mean? If you do not know her agenda, I can hardly guess it. But what she did should not condition what you would do. As a telepath you can both gather information and influence key agents much more easily than I can, so I rather have you working with me. And if we end up being branded as traitors. So be it. I can always retire to Ancient Egypt. It was pretty nice.”


Trying to keep up with a young girl who'd been freed from the burden of school was tricky enough without work getting in the way. Being able to leave Lian in the care of a group of hardened intergalactic professionals was a blessing at the least, even if one of them demanded a large amount of the delicacy that was called 'Ben and Jerry's Phish Food'.

It gave him just enough room to meet up with Nathaniel Richards to fill a request, although what it was, Roy wasn't quite sure. Something about a redhead (weren't they all? And Roy could vouch for that, at least…) refugee from another dimension with superpowers (Bleah. Was there a way to push this off from the DEO to the Department of Temporal Investigations?).

"Hey Nathaniel…!" Roy greets, approaching. Eyeing Rachel's expression, Roy quirks a crooked half-grin. "Charming as ever, eh?"


"Yes, I mean Rachel Grey!" Rachel's voice is testy now, and she braces her hands on the table, leaning forward to look at Nathaniel through the semi-transparent hologram. "And no, I don't know why she thought murder and treason was the way to go, but I'm damn sure she was trying to stop this world going to hell when she did it. Because the only thing stopping me doing /anything/ to prevent this world going the way mine did is knowing that another me tried that already and screwed it up! And…" Rachel's expression becomes incredulous. "Ancient Egypt?"

Rachel's drawing breath to tell Nathaniel what she thinks of the idea of using her to rewrite minds and then leaving her to face the music alone when the door opens. Somehow she'd missed the newcomer's approach. Too wrapped up in her emotions to keep a proper telepathic scan up. Rachel's hands come off the table as if the surface had suddenly become electrified and she takes a step back, swinging around to face… Roy's grin. She's nonplussed, and it makes her misplace her anger, at least temporarily. "Something like that." She answers the question that wasn't directed at her. "Hi. You must be Nathaniel's friend. I'm Rachel." At this point, she can't imagine giving him her first name can make anything worse.


“Hello, Roy. Just in time,” Nathaniel might have been a bit over his head at handling the temperamental redheaded girl. Not that he would admit it. “Roy Harper. Rachel Summers,” he offers. “Roy would understand my comment about Egypt, he was there. He is a hero and also a government agent. Rachel, I asked him to come to talk about your… perceived status as public enemy.”


Offering a hand for a handshake to Rachel, Roy flashes a warm grin, before reaching into his jacket and clicking a device. "Don't mind me, turning on the white noise generator so people can't listen in. Anyway… I'm pretty much here to answer your questions. You haven't stopped by the offices, right? We do have ways of scanning for temporal and dimensional differences. And clones too. Though admittedly, some of this is… uh, off the record. Not everyone has dopplegangers, you know."


'…and a Government Agent.' At those words, Rachel's eyes move first to the door, then the window. Roy's between her and the door - and she doubts going through a Government employee would help her case - but she's got a straight shot at the window. And if that fails she can always go through a wall. With that oddly comforting thought, the sudden tension that had made Rachel turn into a rigid statue eases some, and she belatedly reaches out to shake the offered hand. She retreats a half step when the formalities are over, shooting Nathaniel a half-accusing, half-questioning look, before she tries to get some kind of handle on what Roy's saying to her.

"So I'm told. Lucky for everyone else." Rachel says. Her tone's cautious, but the whole situation is so surreal that she really doesn't know how to react. "But… no. I haven't been anywhere near your offices." She feels her lips twitch a little, and has the oddest feeling that she's about to smile. "Seemed like a bad idea." She glances at Nathaniel, then back to Roy. "You know about the, uh, other me, right?" She keeps her eyes on him this time, but she knows exactly where that window is.


Nathaniel smirks when Roy turns on the white noise generator. His suit had that already covered, among other things, such as masking Rachel’s genetic signature. But it is good to see he takes extra precautions, Roy looks careless sometimes. “I trust Roy,” he notes at Rachel’s glares. “I did not tell him much, but he is party involved in the super-hero scene, so I am pretty sure he knows all there is to know.”


"Well no, I don't know all there's to know," Roy grins. "But I can bluff my way through reasonably enough. So… the other you. Well, we know she's holed up somewhere in Scotland. Extradition and all, but it could take years. In the meantime, I suppose we could have you wear a tag, but that wouldn't do you any good, especially since you're not the criminal in this case." A light shrug. "So for the moment, you behave, you're pretty much left to be. I'm not sure who ran you through the system, but at least your dimensional echo has been flagged and tagged."


"That's reassuring." Rachel mutters under her breath, when Nathaniel declares he trusts Roy, but mostly she's just being a brat because he got her riled up and then sprang Roy on her without warning. At least she doesn't let her brattiness stop her listening to what Roy has to say. After all, isn't this just what she's been hiding in the X-Men's basement to avoid? No sense running now.

She's trying not to trust Roy's grin, but between that grin, the casual, matter of fact way he's talking, and the small fact that her telepathy isn't picking up any sense that he means her harm, she's becoming less and less convinced that she's about to be ambushed. She stiffens again, when he suggests making her wear a tag, visions of collars racing through her mind, and for a moment the memories have her and she can't hear a word he says. With an effort she forces them back. She needs to listen to the present, not the past. She takes a carefully controlled breath. "Not a tag. I'm not wearing a collar again." She had to say that, had to hear herself say the words, whether the others understand or not. It's important to her that she said it.

It takes Rachel a good fifteen, twenty seconds to process the rest of what Roy says. "What?" She says, looking at him blankly. "Wait. Wait, you're really not interested in me? I've been running and hiding since I got here and you don't care? You KNOW I'm not her?" Rachel's still staring at Roy, eyes wide, then shakes her head and flops down into a chair, holding her head in her hands. "I'm SUCH an idiot." The words are quiet and a bit muffled, but then she makes a sound that's oddly like strangled laughter. "Oh, and you want me to behave?" She reaches out an arm, pointing a finger at Nathaniel without even looking. "You need to talk to him about the job he wants to give me."


Nathaniel hand waves that. “Sure. I can talk with Roy about how bad is going to be the future. But he has not seen it, it is not the same… or maybe it is, we have done some time travelling together.” But definitely not Rachel emotional intensity about it, is it? “I did mention to the Outsiders the Heroic Age was going to end up poorly, but… the team is dealing with other issues, hmm?”


"Don't even bother, man. The future's pretty much what we make of it. Otherwise, what's the point of all those warnings that we can't alter the past? If we can alter the past, we can sure as heck alter the present to affect the future anyway," Roy shrugs, waving a hand dismissively. "So her future probably might not happen to us, and it'll end up in some other branch, like a part of a big snowflake."

Roy eyes Rachel then. "Well sure. The DEO got a look at you when the police arrested you that one time, didn't they?"


There's only so long that Rachel can hold her head in her hands while her worldview is rearranged for her. Dropping her hands to rest her forearms on her knees, Rachel looks up and meets Roy's look. "You mean the other me. I've been trying very hard NOT to get arrested." She can't help the edge of dark amusement in her tone as she says those words, any more than she can help the corner of her mouth turning up in a slight smirk. She's not sure how many more times she's going to be able to handle having her world turned upside down, but this time? This time it wasn't quite so bad. "OK. Unless you want to arrest me now…?" She says, the smirk growing steadily wider. "Nathaniel said something about lunch. I think I need it." She looks over toward Nathaniel and shrugs. "Lunch now, save the future later?" She suggests.


“Fair enough,” agrees Nathaniel. He has presented his case to Rachel, although they still have to decide which path they will take to attempt to change the future. But there is still time, and his own projections are incomplete. “Want to come with us, Roy? I am buying.”


"Er… yeah, right. Other you. If you wanna play it safe and register your temporal ID just in case -another- Rachel comes by…" Roy arches an eyebrow, before shrugging. "Anyway don't let me get in way of your date, Nathaniel. I've got a kid that's probably driving K'tten up the wall."

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